The Simultaneous Presence of Suffering & the Supernatural: Reflections on Acts 16 (Part Two)

Posted: 02/17/2011 in Acts of the Apostles

KNOW GOD (KG) – LIVE BIBLICALLY (LB) – BLESS OTHERS (BO)

Acts 16 starts a little slowly in terms of the supernatural involvement of God.  Basically God told them where not to go preach.  Time to shift gears and see God doing some awesome stuff:

Vv.9-10:  Paul has a vision that gave specific insight into where they were to minister next.

V. 14: Though not as dramatic, still insightful for evangelism: concerning Lydia, “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.”  O God, please open the hearts of those who hear me proclaim your gospel and your truth. I appreciate and aim to learn from the church growth experts, but New Testament evangelism requires a supernatural work of God in people’s hearts more than marketing techniques.

V. 18: Paul gets annoyed and casts a demonic spirit out of a fortune-teller… and gets beat up, whipped, and thrown in jail.  The frustrating element of seeing God work supernaturally in your ministry: watching God use you to cast out devils (setting a person free in the process) only to then watch yourself get beat up by people.

Timeout – LB: Beaten, bloodied, and unfairly incarcerated, Paul and Silas pray and sing hymns to God without worrying about who hears them.  Question to ask ourselves: Will I humbly pray and sing unashamedly when people have rejected my ministry, treated me unfairly, left me wounded, and still seek my destruction?

Back to the supernatural displays of Acts 16: V. God opens the apostles’ prison with an earthquake.

Many criticize the cessationists who claim God has ceased doing signs and wonders in our era, yet how many “pseudo-cessationists” have I encountered that seem to thing the apostolic suffering of the 1st-century church has ceased?  The suffering and the supernatural are both for today – often simultaneously.  Others live for God while always expecting the proverbial hammer to drop, crushing them.  I wish we would expect the supernatural as much or more as we expect the suffering.  The New Testament ministries – starting with Jesus’ – seem to involve both suffering and the supernatural in much more liberal doses than most of us experience.

32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

LB/BO:  Paul and Silas keep their tormentor from destroying himself.  They preach to the jailer and his family, baptizing them immediately afterward.  Question to ask ourselves: Will I keep evangelizing and proclaiming the salvation of Christ before my wounds are healed? God won’t always wait for us to heal up before expecting us to evangelize and serve.  Notice that the new believer helped feed and tend to the wounds of Paul and Silas.  Is it possible that God intends to give relief for some of our wounds through those we help and lead to salvation?

40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.

Fresh out of their unjust incarceration and still suffering from physical pain of a public beat-down, Paul and Silas went to a small group/house fellowship and encouraged others.  Amazing.  The apostolic response to being treated unfairly, public humiliation, physical pain, and rejection… godly fellowship and encouraging others.  Rather than isolate themselves to “lick their wounds…” rather than become bitter while waiting for the church to seek them out and encourage them, Paul and Silas give an amazing insight into living Biblically and how to stay motivated to serve and evangelize:  Immediately seek out godly fellowship and encourage others in their walk with God.

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